I know you care, but Please Don't Try to force me to eat

"...like sex, food is fraught with emotional, psychological, social, cultural, gender and religious associations. Sharing a meal is how we establish and maintain relationships. It is how we celebrate and mourn. Some attach their identity to the food they eat. Others use it to exert or lose control" ~ Kate Murphy


I lost my husband almost 3 weeks ago. I have since lost a few pounds. Now it seems like almost everyone is trying to force me to eat things I don't want or need. Please don't try to take away from me the one thing that is actually okay right now.

Okay, I know that I look like sh*t in general. When I pass by a mirror and notice my reflection, I hardly recognize my haggard self. My hair looks like I combed it with a chair. A lot of it is falling out. My eyes are red from crying and lack of sleep. My face looks drawn and gray. My clothes are hanging off of me because I am having trouble not bowing over with the weight of grief and despair. They are wrinkled. I don't (and never did) have the energy or desire to iron them. It just doesn't matter to me, especially right now.

I DID pester Doug about eating and drinking liquids regularly. He was on the sumo wrestler diet - eating nothing all day and then scarfing down huge quantities of food in one meal before bed. During the day when he was mowing, lifting, chopping wood, etc. etc. etc., he was often so busy he forgot to drink before, during or after extreme physical work or play. In response to my nagging, he would say laugh and say "I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I'm dry!" But it was a problem for several reasons.

Doug had hypertension. He was on a diuretic (Benicar HCT.) He had fainted in March 2010 while running. The incident may have been related to dehydration. He kept forgetting that thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration. He thought it was fine when he drank a few Bud Lights on the weekends while working. Alcohol may quench thirst, but is actually de-hydrating.

They say "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" in terms of maintaining energy, concentration and strength, and controlling weight (which also helps control hypertension.) Doug didn't start eating breakfast regularly until after the fainting incident, when his doctor told him to "Listen to your wife."

I do not have any such health issues, other than not eating many fruits and vegetables (I thought I was doing well if I have a fruit a month) and decades of trouble maintaining my weight. I am capable of gaining 3 lbs. overnight, just by looking at a spoonful of ice cream.

Doug stuck with me through thick and thin - literally. In the 27 years I knew him, my weight probably went up and down 60 lbs. Gaining weight makes me unhappy. I am still overweight by most standards. It would not hurt me to gradually lose up to 10 or 20 lbs. I was working on that before this happened.) If need be,

I am not in danger of becoming an alcoholic or of jumping out a window. I am in danger of falling into a container of Ben & Jerry's in my grief. I may have no appetite now, but am sure it will return with a vengeance in due time. Believe me, I know how to eat. So I need to watch out for myself. It feels good to be sort of in control of SOMETHING.

Right now, a lot of caring and well intentioned people press me to eat more. They know that people have to eat to survive, and that people can forget to eat while wallowing in the depths of despair.

They offer me sweets and "comfort" foods. They know how much I usually enjoy food. Doug used to do this too. He sabotaged more than one diet with suprises of Reese's and pints of Ben & Jerry's. They were provided out of love and a desire to see (at a least temporarily) a smile on my face.

Offering food is also connected to the nurturing instinct. Or Italian heritage, along the "manga manga" lines. Most people would not offer an alcoholic alcohol, even though it might drown their sorrows for a short while.Yet they would not hesitate to offer food to someone who has trouble managing their weight.

Neighbors, friends and even people we hardly know have been incredibly generous in terms of bringing us meals. I DID need help feeding the people around me right after this happened. One of those gestures was particularly appreciated. Friend-neighbor David delivered a complete meal for our family the day after. Delicious lobster macaroni that tempted even our dulled senses. Wine. Bread. An entire chocolate cake. All we had to do was eat it.

This kind of thing is great because 1) we didn't have the time or energy to go food shopping or to construct a meal and 2) we have been having a lot of company. It also made me feel a bit guilty. In similar circumstances, I probably would have just droppped off a plate of brownies.

People probably worry because I don't eat a lot at mealtimes. I am a "grazer." I eat small amounts all day long. And that is supposed to be good for you. I don't like eating late at night. Before Doug convinced me to have my gallbladder removed, eating late often caused painful, sleepless nights.

In addition, I simply don't care much about food right now. My stomach hurts. It is in a knot or feels like someone has been pummelling me nonstop. My digestive system is messed up by stress. Eating certain things, or too much, just makes it worse.

Please know that I AM trying to eat regularly and healthy to maintain my strength. I am still taking vitamins. There is so much that needs to be done. I need energy to do it.

I just don't need to eat a lot right now. I do and will sometimes need to talk or write, as I try to process what has happened. Other times, I just need some quiet alone time.

I appreciate your caring. It envelopes me in a coccoon of comfort. I know you just want to help and are motivated by a concern for my welfare. I am lucky for that.

But my body is okay. It's my heart that is broken.




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